Recipes for September

It’s that time of great agricultural abundance, autumn. A time when I normally have loads of pumpkins, winter squash, and I’m still eating my own farm grown tomatoes. But not this year. Since I’m on a sabbatical from farming, I have to shop for vegetables like most people. In search of the freshest seasonal produce I head to the nearest farmers’ market, which happens to be the Easton Farmers Market, an easy walk from my apartment.

Fall is such a fun time to visit the market with warm weather produce still coming in strong and cooler season delights starting to roll in. You can find almost anything you want at a September market. I grabbed some cherry tomatoes, habaneros, okra, kale, sweet potatoes, summer squash and a cucumber.

With the arrival of fall we have started to have some cooler weather … well, cool enough that I actually felt like using my oven. So with my farmers’ market bounty I whipped up a tasty side dish, Autumn Veggie Cobbler (recipe below), to go with dinner.

Even though I don’t have a farm this year, I’m still enjoying some fruits of my labor … well previous labor. Chilly weather starts me craving hearty dishes filled with the dried beans and corn that I stored from 2017. So I whipped up some black-eyed peas (recipe below) to go along with my farmers’ market findings.

 

Autumn Veggie Cobbler
Serves 4

1 TBS sunflower oil
1 cup yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 celery stalk, diced (including leaves)
4 cups sweet potatoes, peeled, cubed
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
1 cup okra, sliced
2 large kale leaves, chopped
1 cup of cherry tomatoes, chopped (or 1 medium tomato)
½ habanero, seeds removed, minced (or ½ tsp chili flakes)
1 ½ cups vegetable stock

In a large skillet heat oil over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, and celery; sauteing for 2 minutes or until the onions begin to brown. Stir in sweet potatoes, salt, and black pepper. After about 5 minutes or once the potatoes start to sweat add okra and kale. Cook for another 5 minutes stir occasionally so the vegetables do not stick.  Then stir in tomatoes, habanero, and stock. Bring everything to a rapid boil, then take off the heat and pour into a 8×8 baking pan and set aside.

Make drop biscuits* in a medium mixing bowl, start by combining dry ingredients

1 ¾ all-purpose flour
¾ tsp salt
1 tsp cream of tartar

Then cut in ⅓ cup of butter. Once the mixture resemble peas, stir in ¾ cup of milk and ½ cup of La Croix (yup I used lime La Croix cause it’s what I had, but you could also just use plain club soda). Be mindful not to over mix, a lumpy batter is okay. Using a large spoon, drop spoonfuls of biscuit batter right on top of your vegetable mixture until you have used up all the batter.

Then bake uncovered in a preheated 450 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until the biscuits are fully cooked and slightly brown on top.

*Full disclosure: I intended to make baking powder biscuits but found my cupboard lacked baking powder and baking soda pretty late into making the recipe. So I improvised with cream of tartar and a can of La Croix.

Simple Black-Eyed Peas
Serves 4

2 cups dried black-eyed peas, soaked overnight and rinsed
1 TBS sunflower oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
5 cups water
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
⅛ tsp chili powder
1 TBS mild hot sauce
½ tsp black pepper
1 lime, cut into 4 wedges

In a large pot heat oil over med-high heat. Then saute onion, celery, and garlic for about 5 minutes or until onions begin to brown. Next add water, black-eyed peas, tomato, oregano, salt, chili powder, hot sauce, and black pepper mixing until well combined. Cover slightly and simmer until black-eyed peas are completely tender about 1 ½ hours, adding more water if necessary to keep black-eyed peas covered.

Serve over rice and squeeze a wedge of lime over top each bowl.

 

Advertisements

Commemorating the Season

Thursday was a day filled with food, family, and friends. For me, Thanksgiving has always been a celebration of food.

During the days leading up to the big feast I search for all the ingredients both in my field, at neighboring farms, local grocery stores, and the farmers market. Every time I thought I had everything I needed I realized something was missing, so back to the store I went. With a kitchen stuffed with seasonal ingredients plus some avocados for a little guacamole, we were ready. We spent all Thursday preparing food for the big feast. It was all hands on deck with everyone lending their various skills to help make a delicious meal.

It is a family tradition to start the day with mimosas, ceviche, and guacamole.

As a farmer I look at Thanksgiving as a commemoration of the year’s bounty both in food and in friendship. Sitting together at a long table passing bowls and platters overflowing with deliciousness, we reminisce about the last time we all got together as a family. Chatter quickly fills the room that is already bursting with delectable food, amusing people, and love.

My dad and I at the pre-Thanksgiving farmers market

Poppin’ Popcorn

After a long wait you can now get your hands on some tasty certified organic Quarter Acre Farm heirloom popcorn.

I sold out of the 2016 harvest of heirloom popcorn months ago and just like my customers when I sell out of popcorn I too have no popcorn in the my own house. So I have been waiting and watching the popcorn like a hawk since I planted it back in May. Once planted popcorn takes about 100 days to reach maturity. Then it has to dry on the stalk until the husk turns brown. After it is harvested I begin to shuck it as I wait for it to dry even more. Popcorn won’t POP if there is too much moisture in the kernel. I test random kernels by trying to pop them on the stove top. Once I get constant pops, it’s time to shell the kernels off the cob.

Well I shelled the popcorn this week and have been busy bagging up the beautiful kernels for market. Heirloom popcorn has a delicious flavor some say it’s a bit nutty or buttery but its scrumptious taste, makes all other popcorn just seem bland. This year I have Pennsylvania Dutch Butter which is a pale yellow and pops yellow and Dakota Black whose kernels are a mahogany color and pops white plus a new variety Smoke Signals which is multi-colored and pops a creamy white. Now that my house is fully stocked with popcorn I have been eating a bowl every night.

If you can’t make it to the market the popcorn is available for sale on etsy,
shipping anywhere within the Untied States.

Me and Tomatoes

Have I mention how much I like tomatoes, well I guess love is a better word. As a farmer I truly believe you must enjoy what you grow both in the field and in the kitchen.

I feel a connection with tomatoes, like I get what they want and need as a plant. From seed to harvest I understand how to make them happy allowing them to do what I want, which is abundant fruit production. Now you may think that because I’m a farmer and a “green thumb” that I connect with any crop and all plants produce for me … that’s not true, I don’t know what salad greens want and most flowers don’t grow for me.

So with tomatoes I feel a synergy, in the field I know the plant just wants to grow big and leafy. So I space out the tomatoes’ deep watering stressing the plant to focus its energy on root development. Then when the fruits begin to ripen I turn off the irrigation to encourage more ripe tomatoes. Well the plants have received that message because the field is bursting with tomatoes waiting to be picked. I’ve been harvesting as much as I possibly can, taking loads to the farmers markets and dropping off flats upon flats to the wholesaler. And of course many tomatoes end up in my kitchen. I think my favorite way to serve tomatoes is via a simple tomato sandwich; just toast, mayo, and thickly sliced tomatoes. But I’m also cooking them up in every form I can think of sauce, curry, pasta, pico de gallo, everything’s better with tomatoes.

Finally Heirloom Popcorn

The long wait for local popcorn and beans is over, this week I visited a fellow farmer to use his thrasher.

The truck packed tight with all the popcorn and beans

The truck packed tight with all the popcorn and beans

This was a speedy way for me to shell all the popcorn and dried beans that I had harvested at the end of the summer. This year I grew Pennsylvania Dutch Butter popcorn and Dakota Black popcorn. For dried beans I grew Silver Cloud, Jacob’s Cattle, Saturday Night Special, Calypso, and California Black-eye peas.

Dakota Black being shelled

Dakota Black being shelled

I’ve been missing my farm grown popcorn as I like eat popcorn year round. I think of it as its own food group. Heirloom popcorn has a nutty flavor but any topping is a great choice. I’m a big fan of rosemary, garlic, olive oil and nutritional yeast. Though some days I just add salt. I tend to like my popcorn with savory toppings but I’ve been working on perfecting a maple syrup version of kettle corn. My favorite way to make my popcorn is over the stove top but the heirloom popcorn will pop in an air-popper or even in the microwave.

PA Dutch Butter after being shelled

PA Dutch Butter after being shelled

Popcorn kernels are non perishable and will last an incredibly long time when store in an airtight container like a mason jar. The heirloom popcorn will be available for sale at the Sonoma farmers’ market until Christmas or online, shipping anywhere within the Untied States. During these cold grey post-election days few things are as comforting as a big bowl of popcorn shared with those you love.

Tomatoes and Pumpkins

The tomato production has started to slow down. The recent rain has encourage the tomatoes to crack and split. And of course the short days and cold nights of autumn make it harder for a tomato to ripen. But I’m still harvesting cherry and heirloom tomatoes, there is just less of them.

20161018_082651

I figure Quarter Acre has about three more weeks of tomato harvest for the season. There is always a chance the harvest could go a little longer if the frost is delayed, but that’s up to Mother Nature.

20161023_134146

The pumpkin and winter squash harvest is in full swing. My farmer’s market booth is filled with these beauties and there is still more out in the field. They are great for using to decorate the house but my preferred thing to do with pumpkins and winter squash is roasting. Once roasted you can use them to make a spicy curry, a savory soup, or everyone’s favorite a sweet pie. A chilly autumn evening is the perfect time to have your oven warming up the kitchen and the aroma of pumpkin in the air.

 

Family Time and Tomato Sauce

Recently my parents were visiting from Maryland. I love having family visit when the field is in full production, they can see and taste all the different crops that are growing. But of course this is also my busiest time of year with long days of harvesting, restaurants to deliver to, and markets to attend.

Even though my parents don’t work in agriculture they have learned over the years that when you visit Andrea during the growing season, you’re gonna have to come to the farm if you wanna spend time with me. Since my parents are awesome, they do just that. Waking early to go to the field to harvest tomatoes from the very tiny to the large and delicate. They help me set up at the farmers’ market and even bringing me coffee as I hustle to assist the customers.

As a farmer you often run into the dilemma of being so busy during the bountiful harvest that you have no time to put up food for the winter. It is a frustrating state, to be surrounded by tons of tomatoes that are soft or split begging to be turned into sauce, with zero time in your schedule, so you dump them into the compost heap. But while my parents were here, my dad was inspired (twice) to make tomato sauce.

20160929_160736

He made enough to keep my cupboards full this winter with jars upon jars of his patent sauce. I sent them back to the east coast with a case of tomatoes and winter squash packed snuggly in their suitcases.

Oh September

The fall weather was here chilly nights, foggy mornings, and windy days. But the heat has returned, I mean it is down right hottt! In the field that means the pumpkins, winter squash, popcorn, and dried beans are screaming to get out of the field.

20160918_100904

They are mature and ready to get out of the direct sunlight to be cured in a shaded area with good ventilation. Curing winter squash will allow them to last through the winter, that is how they got the name “winter squash”. The popcorn and beans also need to be fully dry before they can be shelled.

20160920_155707

This heat also means the tomato plants are back to pumping out lots and lots of tasty ripe fruit. I’m still having tomato sandwiches for lunch and pico de gallo for dinner almost every night. But the tomato party won’t last forever, the frost clock is ticking! A heavy frost will kill off all the tomato plants. Our first average frost day is November 15th but sometimes it comes early and some years it has not shown up until the beginning of December, only time with tell. If you want to enjoy local tomatoes this winter, your best bet is to preserve your favorites by canning or freezing.

Popcorn and Pumpkins

This past week I finally started harvesting the popcorn. I’ve lost a few cobs to birds and squirrels but there is plenty of popcorn to fill the large burlap bags.

Dakota Black popcorn 3 ways (ideal, eaten by pests, and corn smut)

Dakota Black popcorn 3 ways (ideal, eaten by pests, and corn smut)

So far I’ve harvested 17 bags worth of corn ears to be exact. There is still another 6 or so burlap bags worth of the Pennsylvania Dutch Butter to be harvested.

20160911_152953

All of the Dakota Black popcorn is out of the field and now comes the shucking … lots and lots of shucking. After the corn is shucked it will still need to dry a bit more, before it can be shelled and eventually popped. I can’t wait for a freshly popped bowl of heirloom popcorn covered in olive oil, garlic, dill, salt, and my fav nutritional yeast.

I’ve also be harvesting lots of pumpkins orange ones, pink ones, blue ones, green ones, some tiny and some big (but not as large as last year) but all of them are tasty. My farm goal with pumpkins is two-fold; cool looking pumpkins that make awesome decorations and when you’ll tired of looking at them, you can eat them. Turning them into curry, pie, soup, or whatever culinary inspiration comes your way.

20160913_152741

Eating All the Tomatoes

With a steady supply of ripe tomatoes coming from the farm, I feel like I’m constantly surrounded by tomatoes of all colors and sizes; in the field, while driving my truck, and covering most surfaces in my house.

20160830_145416

I’m eating a lot of tomato sandwiches, at least two a day but that doesn’t even put a dent in the supply. So I’ve been chopping them up into pico de gallo, roasting them in the oven, and making sauce to fill my freezer. There will come a time when there are no tasty local tomatoes for months at a time. So I’m doing my best to eat them fresh at every meal and then preserve what I can for enjoyment later.

20160902_093450

 For tomatoes my go-to preservation method is freezing. I like to roughly chop up tomatoes throw them in a pot with salt and cook them into a slightly thick sauce, then I run them through a food mill, pour them into quart size freezer bags and throw them in the freezer. As a farmer the late summer season is incredibly busy as everything needs to be harvested and taken to market. But you gotta make time to stock your pantry for the coming winter.